Extra staff for new licensing rules

FIVE temporary staff have been taken on by a council for a year to help it cope with the changes to the licensing system.Suffolk Coastal expects the changeover to cost it an extra £100,000 in the next 12 months – but is aiming to break even by the charges for the new licences.

FIVE temporary staff have been taken on by a council for a year to help it cope with the changes to the licensing system.

Suffolk Coastal expects the changeover to cost it an extra £100,000 in the next 12 months – but is aiming to break even by the charges for the new licences.

District councils are taking over all responsibilities for licensing – including many previously held by magistrates – to control everything from clubs to village halls, drinking of alcohol, dancing and live music, theatre or cinema.

"This is a massive shift of responsibility by the government and it is causing considerable extra duties for our licensing team," said Norman Bugg, chairman of the council's licensing and health committee.

"We estimate that it will cost us an extra £100,000 in the next 12 months but we hope to break even from the charges for the new licences.

"It will mean local people will have a more direct say in controlling the behaviour of their nearby clubs, pubs, halls and other licensed premises, and the new law also makes it clear for the first time that the premises have a major duty in controlling crime and disorder.

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"This first year is bound to be difficult, but I hope that the lessons we learn will be heeded by the government and any necessary changes implemented quickly."

To tackle the new responsibilities, Suffolk Coastal has taken on five temporary staff to help its small licensing team deal with the huge workload during the first year of the scheme.

There are over 600 licensed premises in the district, and probably over 1,000 people who will want to hold the new personal licence enabling them to authorise the sale of alcohol.

Once formal application has been made to the council's licensing team, an advert must be placed in a local publication and displayed at the premises.

This will give people 28 days to respond to the application and anyone in the area can have their say.

Police, fire brigade, planning officers, food, safety and environmental protection teams, as well as trading standards officers, will all be sent copies of every application. All the details will also be published on the council's website.

If no representation is made against an application, the licence will be granted as requested. If objections are raised, the licensing team will try to resolve any issues and if this fails it will be brought before councillors.

What do you think of the new licensing laws? Write in to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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